Katherine A. Adams
- Associate Professor
- Tulane University
The Public Uses of Privacy: Gender, Race, and Citizenship in Nineteenth-Century American Life Writing
During the nineteenth century, Americans came to think in profoundly new ways about privacy and its relation to their democracy. Fed by countless images of the home, the soul, the body, and heroic individuality, privacy became a public fantasy of autonomy and authenticity, posed against public life even as it conveyed the very ideals of freedom and self-sovereignty that defined democratic community. Where other scholars treat privacy as a space or condition apart from publicity, I approach it as a public -- and thoroughly political -- rhetoric. Analyzing biographical and autobiographical works, I argue that privacy discourse was used not only to affirm, but also to contest dominant notions of democratic value and power, particularly as these were informed by gender and race.
Reconstructing Value: Cotton Culture and Blackness after Emancipation
Slavery’s abolition put intense pressure on the relationship between global cotton and racial blackness, and made it the focus of contending narratives and images in the years following the US Civil War. Many of these representations reaffirmed racist ideology toward stabilizing racial capitalism’s expropriation of value from black people. Others reflected the embrace of cotton by African Americans as a source of economic self-determination and a medium for self-definition. This interdisciplinary project draws together a diverse array of representational forms—from novels, fine art, and black vaudeville, to cotton expositions, postcards, and free trade manifestoes—and makes cotton culture a frame within which to examine how black racial meaning was produced, used, and lived after emancipation.